Recent Commonplace Entries

December

“For years now — all my life, in fact — there’s been something building up in western liberal democracy that should have been foreseeable, but perhaps was too obvious. There will be a penalty paid for prosperity and stability, and the penalty is that the young will forget. Liberal democracy in the West can die of itself. It doesn’t need an enemy, it can create its own enemies.”  (Clive James, quoted in a Sunday Times, tribute, December 1)

“Christianity teaches us that a rational God created mankind in His image with the rational faculties needed to comprehend the universe. Far from being irrational, Christianity thereby provides the only stable foundation of rational thought, a trustworthiness undermined by both atheistic materialism and self-obsessed pantheism.” (Aidan Crook, in letter to the Spectator, November 23)

“Mr Khan’s case demonstrates the difficult challenge of distinguishing impostors from those who have truly had a change of heart and mind.”

“It is much easier to deceive people when you do not fear death.” (Prevent official) (from NYT report on Usman Khan’s murders, December 6)

Genetic Nonsense

“The new curriculum acknowledges there are minor genetic differences between geographic populations loosely correlated to today’s racial categories. But the unit also conveys what geneticists have reiterated; people inherit their environment and culture with their genes, and it is a daunting task to disentangle them.” (NYT, December 8)

“Namier condemned all Germans as hereditarily tainted with antisemitism, brutality and militarism. They had always been ‘a deadly menace to Europe’, and always would be.” (Richard J. Evans, in TLS, November 29)

Eh?

“Some of those who have been arrested have lived in India for generations.” (from NYT report on new Indian citizenship legislation, December 12)

Eh? More pseudo-science . . .

“Christakis demonstrates how we have evolved to enjoy sociality and to be prosocial. Humans crave to belong to a group. We are prepared to forgo individual material rewards in pursuit of this. This prosociality comes from our genes, but the connection between individual genes and individual behavior runs through collective behavior: being prosocial, we co-operate, forming habitats that promote further sociality, and through this common group behavior we have gradually changed the gene pool. Since we are all programmed with these genes, vast swathes of our behavior are common. This is why, as a species, we have evolved to be hard-wired for morality. The metaphors of the ‘naked ape’ and ‘selfish’ gene were always clumsy, but they become dangerously misleading if evolutionary genetics is thought to imply either the selfish organism, or that we are fundamentally just another nasty animal. In fact our ‘selfish’ genes program us to be ethical humans.” (Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, paraphrasing Nicholas A. Christakis in TLS, December 6)

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